Gurudwara in New Delhi converted into a Covid-19 care centre with 250 beds.(AFP)
Gurudwara in New Delhi converted into a Covid-19 care centre with 250 beds.(AFP)

Can add 9,000 beds if O2 quota is met: Arvind Kejriwal

Since the third week of April, Delhi has battled an acute shortage of oxygen supplies as the surge in Covid-19 cases crushed the health care system, forcing many to pare back the number of beds they have even as people struggled to get life-saving medical attention.
By Abhishek Dey, Anonna Dutt, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 07, 2021 12:49 AM IST

Delhi can add 9,000 to 9,500 more beds for Covid-19 patients if the Union government continues to send 700 metric tonne (MT) of medical oxygen, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday, as he thanked the Centre for the increase in supply – a measure sought by the state government and ordered by the Supreme Court and the Delhi high court.

Since the third week of April, Delhi has battled an acute shortage of oxygen supplies as the surge in Covid-19 cases crushed the health care system, forcing many to pare back the number of beds they have even as people struggled to get life-saving medical attention.

“For the shortage of oxygen, several hospitals in the city had started reducing their oxygen beds. A prominent hospital reduced total oxygen beds from 300 to 100. Our aim is to keep increasing oxygen beds,” said Kejriwal during an online press briefing.

Also read | Delhi adds 19,133 new Covid cases, 335 deaths; positivity rate below 25%

He listed GTB, Lok Nayak and Rajiv Gandhi Superspeciality as hospitals where beds were reduced. “I appeal them to increase beds. Also, several hospitals approached us in the past few days saying they can further augment capacity of oxygen beds if the supply becomes stable. Now that the supply is stable, I request them to increase oxygen beds,” he added.

Delhi received 730 MT on Wednesday after days of repeated warnings and prodding by the high court as well as the apex court. Prior to that, the most the city received was on Tuesday when it got 555 MT of oxygen, and the average for seven days before that was 398MT.

“Delhi needs 700 MT oxygen, and yesterday was the first time that the Central government sent 730 MT oxygen. But, I request the Centre to continue sending 700 MT oxygen daily until the country’s second wave doesn’t ebb. It shouldn’t be the case that one day we receive 700 MT and the next day we again get only 300-400 MT, because that will create a turmoil in the hospitals again,” the CM said.

Rajeev Gandhi Superspeciality hospital, which treats only the sickest patients in need of high flow oxygen and ventilator support, had to reduce the number of beds from 550 to 350 on April 23. A day later, the neighbouring Guru Teg Bahadur hospital, which had 900 Covid-19 beds, had to reduce it to 700 beds. The hospital later added 50 beds.

Also read | Delhi CM Kejriwal writes to PM Modi, expresses gratitude for supply of oxygen

“We will observe the trend for a few days and then slowly increase the number of beds,” said a senior doctor from Rajiv Gandhi Superspecialitiy hospital, asking not to be named.

The Delhi government-run Burari hospital, which runs 370 beds for Covid-19 patients, had to restrict admissions due to the erratic oxygen supply. The hospital has a pressure swing adsorption (PSA) plant, but needs an additional 250 to 260 oxygen cylinders to support Covid-19 patients. “We have had to restrict new admissions depending on the availability of oxygen,” said a senior doctor from the hospital.

Several private hospitals, too, said they were keeping beds empty due to the uncertainty of oxygen supply.

Hakeem Abdul Hameed Centenary Hospital on Thursday had at least 200 beds that were not being utilised for want of oxygen. “We have more feet on the ground than any other hospital, so we can look after more patients. We have 200-plus beds empty because we do not have wherewithal to get oxygen,” said Dr Sunil Kohli, head of the department of medicine at the hospital. The hospital does not have a large storage quantity and needs several refills a day.

Watch | India’s oxygen crisis: IIT Kanpur alumni raise over 3 crore to help Delhi, UP

“Patients are dying and hospitals have vacant beds because of the uncertainty of oxygen supply. If Delhi starts getting enough oxygen regularly, the number of beds can be increased by at least 5,000 across city hospitals,” said Dr PK Bharadwaj, secretary, Delhi Voluntary Hospitals Forum.

Government records seen by HT showed that Delhi has now inched closer to its augmentation target of 4,625 oxygen beds and crossed the target of 1,126 ICU beds.

To be sure, these augmentation targets were to be met by April 27.

As on May 6 afternoon, Delhi had 19,330 oxygen beds, including 5,400 ICU beds, according to the government’s app. On April 20 afternoon, the first day of the ongoing lockdown which was imposed to strengthen the health care infrastructure, Delhi had 15,230 oxygen beds, including 4,139 ICUs. In the 16 days, the oxygen beds have increased by 4,100 and ICUs have increased by 1,261, government records said.

According to officials, the exercise was delayed because of the severe shortage of oxygen and by April 27, the government managed to increase oxygen beds and ICU by hardly 40% of what was targeted. Now, the government plans to add 15,000 beds in hospitals and facilities attached with hospitals and add 1,200 more ICUs by May 10, according to the documents seen by HT. “Things look better now with better supply of oxygen since May 2,” said one official, who asked not to be named.

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